Part IX—Then What?

Part IX—Then What?

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Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
I Corinthians 3: 10-14
Years ago, I heard a memorable sermon from a priest which he entitled “Then what?” The story he told was about a college student who went to talk to his priest and had all kinds of anxiety about what his future held. The conversation went something like this:
Student: I’m anxious about my future.
Priest: What are you anxious about?
Student: Well, I want to find a good job.
Priest: And then what?
Student: I want to make a lot of money.
Priest: And then what?
Student: I want to get married and have children.
Priest: And then what?
Student: I want to have a successful career.
Priest: And then what?
Student: I want to retire and enjoy grandchildren.
Priest: And then what?
Student: I’ll probably get sick and eventually die.
Priest: And then what?
The point of the sermon was to illustrate that without God and without faith, when everything else in life is over, then what?
I love this sermon, not only because it was memorable and applicable to faith and life, but because I found another way to use it as it relates to making good decisions and staying out of trouble. We previously discussed test questions before making a decision—It is safe? Is it smart? Is it in line with my character? Does it honor God? Does it get me closer to my goals?
“Then what?” is a good test question to use when making decisions. Take any scenario, ask “Then what?” and answer the question over and over again until the scenario plays out to completion. Here is an example from teenage behavior:
I’m going to go to a party and drink.
Then what?
I’m probably going to get sick.
Then what?
I’m going to have to lie to my parents about where I was.
Then what?
They aren’t going to trust me.
Then what?
I may permanently harm my relationship with them.
Going to the party and drinking doesn’t play out to a good ending for a teenager. It’s a bad decision.
Let’s take this from an adult perspective.
I’m going to go to a party and get drunk.
Then what?
I’m going to drive home.
Then what?
I might get caught drinking and driving.
Then what?
I will be embarrassed when my mug shot ends up all over the internet.
Then what?
I won’t be able to get a job and will face a lifetime of embarrassment.
Drinking and driving is not a good decision. It doesn’t play out to a good ending.
There is an innumerable amount of scenarios of things we are tempted with every day: Flirting with a co-worker, fudging on a financial figure, driving recklessly, staying up too late and the list goes on and on.
When we are confronted with these scenarios, we should ask ourselves the “Then what?” question and let it play out to all possible conclusions. Then we will avoid what is evil and cling to what is good.
Here is an example of a good decision:
I’m going to exercise regularly.
Then what?
I’m going to get in better shape.
Then what?
I’m going to physically feel better.
Then what?
I’m going to have more strength and stamina to do more things.
Then what?
I’ll probably live longer.
The decision to exercise, as an example, is a good decision. It plays out to a good ending.
Encouragement, whether you are encouraging someone else or someone else is encouraging you, generally plays out to a good ending (unless bad behavior is being encouraged). It boosts self-confidence, it lessens doubt, it gets good behaviors to repeat, and it brings people closer together. The choice to encourage is generally a good decision. It plays out to a good ending in the “Then what?” exercise.
“Then what” is an excellent test question in going to what it good and away from what is evil. It is also an excellent question to keep in mind when considering the primary importance of faith over the other things we may or may not achieve in life.
Lord, thank You for the gift of this day. I know that this day will be filled with choices and decisions that will affect my life and the lives of others. Give me the wisdom to meditate on the question “Then what?” as I make my decisions. Help me to understand that certain decisions do not play out to a good ending, while others will play out to a good ending. Help me to have eyes to see the good paths and the courage and steadfastness to avoid the bad ones. Help me to have faith to know that the ultimate “then what” is to be granted salvation and everlasting life. May my life and it’s daily decisions point me towards Your heavenly Kingdom. Amen.
Ask yourself “Then what?” as you make decisions today!
+Fr. Stavros
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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0